Monday, March 29, 2004

More Sauce for the Goose

Lots of fun this week. If you want the whole background on this week's column, on Thursday the Tribune ran an editorial suggesting that the 9/11 commission is a waste of time. You can read the original editorial here, and I summarize it in my piece (which if you want to see how it ran in the newspaper, is available here.)

It’s surely only a mere coincidence, but of course the Tribune editorial came out the same day that Peggy Noonan was writing in The Wall Street Journal that the 9/11 commission is a mere distraction we can't afford. After all, we’re in a War, a War that takes all of our unity, attention, and treasure -- at least after we’re finished amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage, adding a deceptively-expensive prescription drug benefit to Medicare, cutting taxes, and going to Mars. And don’t forget stamping out steroids in professional sport.

Nice "war" you got there, one that only restricts things that might interfere with Bush’s reelection. Remember, 9/11 changed everything, except that we're not supposed to want to find out what really happened. I guess that's a change, too.

East Valley Tribune, Mar. 28, 2004

The 9/11 commission hearings must be going poorly for the Bush administration, or we wouldn’t have seen that extraordinary editorial in last Thursday’s Tribune, “Does 9/11 commission have truly worthy mission?”

The Tribune directed readers to focus on two questions: First, how would any investigation of past events tell us anything about the wisdom of current policies? Second, why should anyone grant “any particular credence” to the commission and its hindsight-aided conclusions?

It’s truly amazing, and downright scary, watching the Tribune go this deep into the tank for George W. Bush.

There are simple answers to both questions. First, you review what happened so you can learn from it. As Santayana said, those who fail to study history are condemned to repeat it. Unless the Tribune now believes that the government (the federal government!) is 100 percent right, why not investigate what happened to see if current policies, and current personnel, are truly wise?

Nobody got fired from their job due to 9/11. Oh, there’s a new cabinet department, but does reshuffling the organizational chart mean actual substantive change? You’d think a newspaper might want to know. In the case of the Tribune, you’d be wrong.

Second, the commission’s recommendations will stand or fall on their merits. We haven’t seen any yet, just a preliminary staff report, so we can’t judge their worth until they’re issued. But even if the commission produces no worthy insights, or ends in a partisan deadlock, it still could be useful by putting facts, under oath, into the record. You’d think a newspaper might want the facts. But again, in the case of the Tribune, you’d be wrong.

Here’s the clincher, folks. Can you ever imagine the Tribune writing an editorial giving readers the same advice about any investigation of the Lewis Prison hostage crisis by the Arizona Legislature and Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley?

After all, any investigation of what happened wouldn’t inform us “more than an iota about the wisdom of current policies.” Department of Corrections policies already have “changed dramatically,” so focusing on what happened in the past similarly wouldn’t help deal with the future.

And “why should anyone grant any particular credence” to the legislature and Romney? Criticism of DOC operations during both the Hull and Napolitano administrations also isn’t proof of “political neutrality,” because Napolitano will run for reelection, while Hull’s retired.

Also, isn’t Mel McDonald, whom Romley hired at taxpayer expense for the investigation, also “not necessarily going to be impartial about justifying” his appointment? Romley and McDonald also “are not necessarily going to want to look like namby-pamby sorts who can’t say the tough things that need saying.”

And won’t any recommendations from the legislature, Romley, and McDonald also “seem to benefit enormously from that which makes geniuses of us all: hindsight”?

If the Tribune ever says that any investigation of the Napolitano administration should be ignored or considered unworthy for the same reasons as the 9/11 commission editorial, then I’ll kiss Bob Schuster on both cheeks and give $100 to the charity of his choice. I feel safe I’ll never have to deliver.

In 2001, the Bush administration considered missile defense and Iraq more important than the Middle East peace process and fighting non-state terrorism like Al Qaeda. That’s a serious policy choice, and in a different world, they might have been right. But if we can’t investigate and debate their choices in an election year, then what exactly is democracy, anyway?

It’s pretty basic. Both Bush and Napolitano should answer to voters for their personnel and policy decisions. But if the Tribune thinks Bush should get a pass, then so should Napolitano.

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